Four EU states reportedly tried to foil condemnation of Mashaal hate speech

Intervention by Prague and Berlin got clause against Hamas inserted into end of statement; France continues Ma’aleh Adumim expansion

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, left, speaks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle during a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels on Monday, Dec. 10 (photocredit: AP/Virginia Mayo)
EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, left, speaks with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle during a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels on Monday, Dec. 10 (photocredit: AP/Virginia Mayo)

Four European Union member states reportedly opposed an official condemnation of Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s incitement-filled speech last weekend, leading to harsh responses from Israeli leaders that Europe was being one-sided.

According to an Israel Radio report Wednesday, Denmark, Finland, Portugal and Ireland pressured European foreign ministers to condemn Israel solely for its E1 settlement construction plan at a meeting of the body’s foreign council Monday.

In the end, the statement included a brief rebuke of Hamas’s call for Israel’s destruction, after an 11th-hour intervention by Germany and the Czech Republic, Israel Radio reported.

Israeli leaders slammed the EU statement, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that Europe’s lack of a strong condemnation of Hamas was a “deafening silence.”

“We can’t accept that, when Jews build homes in [Israel’s] ancient capital, the international community has no problem finding its voice, but when Palestinian leaders openly call for the destruction of Israel, the one and only Jewish state, the world is silent,” Netanyahu said.

On Saturday, Hamas head Khaled Mashaal, in his first visit to Gaza, said that the Palestinians would continue to fight to annihilate Israel.

“We are not giving up any inch of Palestine. It will remain Islamic and Arab for us and nobody else. Jihad and armed resistance is the only way,” he said. “We cannot recognize Israel’s legitimacy.”

The three-page EU statement was almost solely concentrated on condemnation for Israel’s plan to expand settlement building, including in the sensitive E1 corridor east of the capital.

“The European Union is deeply dismayed by and strongly opposes Israeli plans to expand settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, and in particular plans to develop the E1 area,” the union’s Foreign Affairs Council said after the Monday meeting.

In the penultimate paragraph of its condemnation of Israel, the group said that “The EU finds inflammatory statements by Hamas leaders that deny Israel’s right to exist unacceptable. The European Union will never cease its efforts to combat terrorism which seeks to undermine the openness and tolerance of societies through indiscriminate acts of violence against civilians.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Wednesday acknowledged that his country was responsible for inserting the condemnation of Hamas into the EU statement. “We absolutely condemn the statements by Hamas leader Mashaal. Anyone who questions the right of Israel to exist can not be a partner for peace talks. Mashaal’s public pronouncements demonstrate to the world how justified Israel’s security concerns are,” he said.

The French Foreign Ministry on Wednesday further condemned Israel’s publication of a tender for the construction of an additional 92 apartment units in the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim.

Quay d’Orsay called the tender a “negative development” and, urged Jerusalem “not to implement these illegal projects which pose a threat to the two-state solution.”

On Tuesday and again Wednesday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman bashed the EU for not speaking out against Mashaal’s hateful speech.

On Tuesday night, Liberman said some of his European counterparts “regard Israel’s destruction as a given.” On Wednesday, he accused Europeans of being prepared to abandon Israel as they gave up Czechoslovakia to the Nazis on the eve of World War II.

“Expressions and promises of commitment to Israel’s security from all around the world reminds me of similar commitments made to Czechoslovakia in ’38,” Liberman told a diplomatic conference, invoking an analogy he has used before.

“My sense is that all the promises and commitments to Israel’s security are mere words,” he said, speaking English.

“When push comes to shove, many key leaders would be willing to sacrifice Israel without batting an eyelid, in order to appease the radical Islamist militants and ensure quiet for themselves,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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